Pitco getting stingy with TDRs
October 25, 2007
ASPEN ” Think you can cash in on a constrained rural property for a lucrative deal with Pitkin County?
Transferable development rights, or TDRs, allow people to sever development rights from land. Owners can sell the rights or use them on another property. Since 1994, the county has had a policy to award TDRs to homesites that are cut off, inaccessible or undevelopable because of land constraints.
The county has issued 19 TDRs since Dec. 1, 2006.
The current market price for a TDR is about $300,000.
The program is designed to move development from rural backcountry to more dense areas, and enables developers to build larger homes through TDR purchases, county officials said.
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But facing a glut of TDR applications, Pitkin County commissioners are skeptical.
“Our idea wasn’t to cash people out,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.
At its regular meeting Wednesday in Aspen, commissioners turned down two TDR applications, including one from Connie Harvey, who has preserved thousands of acres of Roaring Fork Valley ranchland over the years.
Harvey came before the commissioners to ask for TDRs for four acres adjacent to her protected land.
“I see this as protecting something that has real scenic value,” Harvey said.
But while commissioners supported Harvey’s motives, they disagreed with the method.
Commissioners determined that Harvey’s lots were buildable. They tabled the issue until Dec. 19 to give Harvey a chance to come up with another plan, or negotiate with county open space and trails staff.
The board on Wednesday also shot down a proposal on a 6,225-square-foot site near Lime Creek Road in the Fryingpan area.
A representative from Frying Pan LLC asked commissioners for a TDR for a rural site that sold for $10,000 in 1999.
The site, 83 feet by 75 feet, is too narrow to accommodate a well and a septic system which must be at least 100 feet apart, according to the company representative. And the parcel’s steep slopes would mean a developer would have to cut an unsightly driveway into the hillside, and the area poses not only a wildfire danger but is adjacent to essential wildlife habitat.
“Staff find the lot is developable and should not be eligible for a TDR,” senior planner Suzanne Wolff said.
Commissioner Dorothea Farris said the site and others like it were designed for rural cabins, not deluxe homes.
County staff suggested finding “other options,” such as hauling water to the residence.
Commissioner Rachel Richards warned of “flooding the TDR market.”
Owsley likened recent applications to a “run on the bank,” saying many people have realized they can make massive gains with TDRs.
“It’s a concern in our conversations,” Owsley said.